Helping an injured worker get back to work

If you’ve been in business since 2012, you may be familiar with the workers compensation reforms introduced at that time.

At the centre of the reforms was a fundamental shift in thinking to focus on what an injured worker can do (capacity) rather than what they can’t (incapacity). The change was important for a number of reasons.

For a start, the longer someone has off work after an injury, the less chance they have of ever returning. People who get back on the job sooner have better health, financial and social outcomes in the long run. Secondly, work keeps people active, focused and connected, and can also help with managing pain. Work is often the best medicine.

As an employer you can have a huge impact on how well someone does after being injured at work. But where do you start? We know that every injury and every workplace is different, and we know that workers compensation can be complex.

To help make sure you’re prepared if one of your team is injured at work, we’ll be publishing a series of short articles in the WorkCover Wrap over the next few months. We will cover topics that we get lots of questions about such as developing a return to work plan, modified duties and employer incentives. We will also share some inspiring stories and interviews.

The WorkCover NSW Certificate of Capacity – what is it and why is it important?

To kick off the series we’re explaining one of the key documents that you will need to understand if you have an injured worker. The WorkCover NSW Certificate of Capacity replaced the old medical certificate issued by the doctor of an injured worker.

And like the title suggests, it is focused on what the worker can do, not what they can’t. When your worker signs the certificate, they give permission for the information to be shared with you and the insurer.

A properly completed certificate is important because the recommendations made by the doctor help you to find suitable work, so that your worker can return to work and recover at work.

The certificate is updated by the doctor at regular intervals, particularly as your worker’s capacity for work improves. Each version should cover a period of no greater than 28 days, unless there is good reason such as a serious or severe injury.

Making early contact with the doctor can help them to complete the certificate. You can discuss your worker’s normal duties and availability of other duties. You can even contact the doctor before the first certificate is issued, provided your worker agrees.

It’s OK to ask the doctor questions about the information on the certificate. You might ask what your worker can do, or how long the doctor expects the worker to take to return to normal duties. Ask whether the worker drive or use public transport and what you can do to help them recover at work.

And importantly, ask the doctor what’s the best way to communicate with them about your worker’s progress.

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